Clam kill on the Nottoway

Published 5:33 pm Friday, July 1, 2022

Spirit of Moonpie, Whispering Bear and I spent June the 28th through the 30th on the Nottoway below Delaware. The water was very clear but stagnant and 82 degrees. Air temps ranged from 63 to 85 degrees. It was very nice weather except for the smoke on the water, and I’m not talking about the Deep Purple song!

We had an interesting occurrence this trip. Just upriver from the U.S. Route 258 boat ramp, we discovered hundreds of thousands of dead floating Asiatic clams. The kill was confined to that part of the river. Thankfully it was not the species of mussels that were seeded around that area years ago that I helped put in place. All those animals had tags on them, and none of these dead critters had such tags. 

So, after reporting the kill and having the Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Wildlife Resources look into it, the determination was that the kill was due to either low dissolved oxygen or high-water temps or both. These clams are non-native and cannot handle that type of water quality. The concern then became the fact that dead Asiatic clams produce ammonia, which is toxic to the native species. I did not detect any ammonia smell, so I hope our native species did not experience a kill from that. It will take a reconnaissance mission from the malacologist at DWR to determine that.  

The fishing on this trip was… challenging. The first night we were way downriver near where the kill was and did not even have a hit. Now I know why. The second night we ventured back upriver and caught an 18 pounder and an 11 pounder. Both looked healthy. The regular fishing was not too bad upriver for bass and chain pickerel. However, casting for bream was terrible. I mean, I caught a few nice bream, but it was slow going. Most of the fish I caught casting were caught on a jerk bait and a white tail Mepps #2.

We saw right many critters on this trip, except for snakes. This time of year, we start seeing less snakes, I guess because it’s so hot on the edges of the riverbank. We saw a bald eagle and many, many beavers. Lots of Blue Heron also, more than normal. I don’t know if they were eating the clams or what. Also, we saw several muskrats who were probably sad about the clam kill.

So, all in all it was a very nice trip. Except on Day Two near the end of the day, the river became inundated with a strong smell of something burning. Pretty rough on people with respiratory issues like Whispering Bear has. I don’t know if it was from the two North Carolina fires or from something else. Luckily, I was able to pretty much get away from it eventually so she didn’t have to abandon ship. Hopefully by the next time we venture out, the bad air and water quality issues will have abated and everyone will be happy on the two rivers we call the Nottoway and Blackwater. 

Jeff Turner is the Blackwater Nottoway RiverGuard. To contact him about river issues, send him an email at blknotkpr@earthlink.net. He can also be followed on the Blackwater Nottoway RiverGuard Facebook page. Just type in “Blackwater Nottoway RiverGuard” in the search field on Facebook.